Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Northern fields, southern lights

Hannah and Aaron Beehre: Postcard to Casablanca & Rodriguez
Te Tuhi
25 July - 27 September 2009

The Beehres are famous for their sound-sensitive interactive installations. Their work generates shrieks of pleasure from children in normally quiet municipal institutions, as they jump up and down or clap to make leaves fall off bushes on big LCD screens. They are a real pain because they force a grizzling grumpy-guts like me to bring ear-muffs whenever I visit.

This current Te Tuhi work happily doesn’t seem to need sound to work. I think the Beehres use heat – cumulatively acquired from bodies standing in the gallery space. The screen shows (I think - though it might be clover) a small field of lavender surrounded by conifers, with lots of hazy sky above. When two or more people are in the room an aurora gets activated, with pink flickering, wobbly lines snaking their way across the sky from left to right. The effect is dramatic, but is only generated by a certain critical mass. Otherwise, by yourself you only see the field.

That lilac-coloured field is a European image. You would never see such a sight in Aotearoa. The Beehre’s aurora is deliberately more like one of those large gas-filled bulbs with crackling electrical discharges jumping between filaments than a true aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Which is more like psychedelic sheet-lightning.

Their version is closer to an aurora australis (Southern Lights). It’s a clever joke that has a logic built in so that at least two people are needed to grasp it – such as untravelled persons from each hemisphere. Together they can compare meteorologies and botanies. A tight weave of technique and content.

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